At the same time that regulators in France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg are suspending the marketing approval of 25 generic drugs due to concerns over the quality of data from clinical trials conducted by India's GVK Biosciences, another Indian firm, Zydus Cadila, has launched a biosimilar of Adalimumab (an anti-TNF-α monoclonal antibody, which is approved in many countries for the treatment of inflammatory diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, plaque psoriasis, polyarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.)
Bad timing and, perhaps, bad science.
The quality of Indian pharmaceuticals has come under fire this year, with regulators in Europe and the United States citing problems ranging from data manipulation to sanitation and banning the import of certain products from several firms. And, it should be noted, these violations are for generic drugs, not biosimilars.
French and German regulators are investigating drug approvals based on clinical trials meant to show that these generic drugs were equivalent to the original branded versions conducted by GVK Bio between 2008 and 2014.
A Zydus Cadila spokesman commented that, “This therapy will offer a new lease of life to millions in India who have not had access to this therapy so far.” But the reality is that their product is more likely to be aggressively marketed for export.
Most importantly is the question of quality – or lack thereof. As company’s ranging from biotech innovator Amgen to multinational generics manufacturer Sandoz struggle to fulfill the clinical requirements for an Adalimumab biosimilar, two obvious questions arise -- (1) What does Zydus Cadila know that large multinational manufacturers don’t; and (2) What do Indian regulators know that their counterparts in the US and the EU are struggling to understand?
To not aggressively ask these questions is to bury one’s head in the sand.
And here’s an even tougher question -- In order to boost pharmaceutical exports, are Indian regulators willing to license substandard products?
According to a May 2012 article in The Lancet,
“To say that India's drug regulatory authority, the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO)-whose remit includes new drug approval, licensing of manufacturing facilities, and regulation of drug trials-is not fit for purpose seems a gross understatement.”
“If I have to follow U.S. standards in inspecting facilities supplying to the Indian market,” G. N. Singh, India’s top drug regulator, said in an interview with an Indian newspaper, “we will have to shut almost all of those.”
Does that mean US standards are too high or that Indian ones are too low? Well, where you stand depends on where you sit. And if you’re sober and sitting up straight, the answer is obvious.
According to Dilip Shah, Secretary General of the Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance, some Indian manufacturers “doctor their data.” The solution? “Regulators should have regular liaison with manufacturers in India and China to explain to them how GMP works and that they don’t have to cheat.”
Feel better now?